If you're not yet a 'Running Man' enthusiast, certainly you've at least heard of, or know of the hype surrounding this wildly successful variety program. Since it first aired back in 2010, SBS's 'Running Man' has been doing exceptionally well with regards to attracting and upholding the audience interest.
More so than that, the program's domestic and international fan base hasn't stopped multiplying; the program transcends any age barriers, seeing as to how elementary school kids find the show just as hilarious as do elders; and perhaps most tellingly, viewers consistently finish watching the episode feeling good. It's not so much a matter of one episode being bad as it is a matter of other episodes being better.
But what is it about this particular program that makes it so remarkable? Though there are plenty of variety programs out there, - both of the past and present - 'Running Man' has become indispensable to the genre of lighthearted, semi-scripted entertainment. Why, though?
Well brace yourselves, dear readers, because I'm going to rock your world. Trust me, I was just as skeptical and predisposed to believe in the show's imminent failure when a close friend introduced me to the show and told me it was going to "rock my world."
The show did. And sooner or later, it'll rock yours, too. Here are ten reasons why:
1) The nation's favorite grasshopper - Yoo Jae Suk
Yoo Jae Suk is arguably the best MC (who bears a striking resemblance to a grasshopper) that Korea has to offer. Serving as the main host since the pilot airing of 'Running Man', Yoo Jae Suk has been running a seamless show filled with spontaneous, witty remarks and good-humored banter. Even more, he inspires the members to feel like they're part of a family.
His humility and disarming quirks are unparalleled in the industry, and 'Running Man' simply couldn't have chosen a better leader to spearhead the program. With so much prestige riding on his name alone, it makes sense to keep a tight reign on his composure on-screen. But I think it's Yoo Jae Suk's complete disregard for that mindset that sets him apart. He makes sure to show that he's just as prone to making blunders and embarrassing himself as the rest of us, and for that, we find him endearing and approachable.
2) The Monday Couple - Song Ji Hyo and Gary
Actress Song Ji Hyo and Leessang's Gary have a special on-air romance, for which they are dubbed the "Monday Couple." The story behind their on-screen romance is innocent enough: When asked whether or not he liked Song Ji Hyo, Gary slyly averted the question and channeled into a different topic. That could've been fairly convincing had he not turned blood red.
The Monday couple has a rawness to them that we rarely see on variety programs. Usually, love lines in programs like these are the brainchild of producers working behind the scenes. And though we often buy into it, it all gets to be jaded and mechanic. But in the case of Gary and Ji Hyo, the love line was tailored to fit them. As such, it feels natural and unforced.
The honorary youngest member of the bunch, actor Lee Kwang Soo was a complete variety show rookie when he first appeared on 'Running Man'. But for those of you still doubting his variety skill prowess, you're wasting your time.
Kwang Soo, who earned the nickname "Giraffe" for his impressive height of 6'3", has been garnering a steady fan following for his performances on 'Running Man' each week. And for good reason.
He's one of those guys whose face alone makes it difficult to hold in laughter. Additionally, it seems that whenever he's on the show, the whole world conspires against him.
Accordingly, Kwang Soo will resort to unethical means to win. He prides himself on being one of the lead betrayers of the group - alongside HaHa and Ji Suk Jin - and using brute force will not, under any circumstances faze him (he specializes in biting and tripping guests and original members of the show).
4) This is Sparta - Kim Jong Kook
If the film "300" were to be remade for the Korean audience, there's only one man who could play Gerard Butler's character - Kim Jong Kook.
He's undeniably the brain and brawn of the team. Though he's capable of inhumane strength, he makes sure to balance out the muscle with clever tactics that help him to eliminate other players faster.
But can you imagine being pursued by Kim Jong Kook during a round of hide-and-seek? Even worse, can you imagine being caught between his two
watermelons arms? Just look at HaHa's face in the image above. It's like watching the last few moments of a baby gazelle fighting for life, struggling to free itself from the grips of a lion. That poor gazelle... it doesn't even stand a flying chance.
5) Big Nose Brother - Ji Suk Jin
If Kim Jong Kook embodies human strength, Ji Suk Jin consistently redefines all the ways our physical agility can fail.
The oldest member of the team, Ji Suk Jin plays a more unfortunate role in 'Running Man'. He is so infamously renown for his physical ineptness that the rest of the members have resorted to calling him the "Race Starter" - implying that the race doesn't start until after his elimination.
I'll make this easier to conceptualize - think back to your school gym classes. Remember that one kid who takes gym volleyball or dodgeball or what have you, way too seriously? As though he's contending for an Olympic medal?
Nevertheless, we have to admit that he plays well; the skills are all there. Let me be clear: Ji Suk Jin is not that kid.
In fact, Ji Suk Jin and I are intimately bound by our disposition to fall walking on flat surfaces, or to trip walking up stairs. I like to think that there are two types of people in the world: in one respect, there are people who can navigate their lives with composure and ease; then there are people who can very much trip on air. Ji Suk Jin relates to the latter. The struggle is intensely real for this 47-year-old.
6) The drama queen - HaHa
Given his tender height of 5'6" and his uncanny resemblance to Pororo the Little Penguin, HaHa often finds himself at the butt of his members' jokes. HaHa has a flair for the dramatics - he thoroughly enjoys lashing out at guests or the original members when things don't go his way.
Even more, he's right on par with Lee Kwang Soo when it comes to betrayal. Both men are professionally trained in the art of conniving others to reach their own means. And to get there, no ounce of morality can stop them - they will kick, scratch, and scream without discrimination.
7) The master of disguise - FD Go Dong Wan
FD, which stands for floor director, has a wide range of responsibilities, some of which include ensuring that equipment is functioning properly, giving cues, and informing the director of possible footage off-camera.
As if the FD workload wasn't enough, Maknae (youngest) FD Dong Wan goes above and beyond. He often introduces the cast to the allotted mission for the week while wearing memorable costumes. Admittedly, the cast, much like regular viewers, seldom take FD Dong Wan seriously. But taking into account his miniature size, infectious smile, and an enviable face that absorbs makeup quite well, he quickly adds an indispensable color to the show.
Oh Dong Wan - you deserve a raise for everything you go through.
8) Games you wish teachers made you play in school
Perhaps the biggest merit of 'Running Man' - at least for me - is the series of games within each episode. For each episode, there's a respective mission that the members are obligated to complete. But in order to accomplish that mission, the members must first succeed in whatever game is allotted to them.
The time invested into putting together these games and the hours of brainstorming found behind each little technicality of the game hits me every time. The games range from simple multiplication table races to something as complicated as entire obstacle courses laid out for the purpose of the show.
For argument's sake, I should disclose that the producers do sometimes repeat games, i.e. dodgeball. But if that bothers you so much, I assure you there are bigger things to be concerned about in life.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind whenever an idol appears on a variety program is that your image of him or her will be compromised. But that's the beauty of it - you get to see a side of your favorite celebrities that you wouldn't have been able to see had they dedicated their schedules strictly to music show appearances.
And keeping with that mindset, 'Running Man' is seldom lukewarm when it comes to exposing guests and the original members as something other than the put-together celebrities we expect them to be.
10) Strangers who became family
To be honest, I've never been one to single-mindedly obsess over a particular K-drama, let alone a variety program, the reason being I dislike feeling like I'm wasting my time. Additionally, I'm quite impatient when it comes to dramas and variety programs - we all know how they end, and that being the case, there's hardly any room for surprises. And frankly, 'Running Man' is just as scripted as the rest of the programs airing in Korea. That's indisputable.
But the show is of a different caliber because each of the members brings something different to the table. From what I can tell, the seven members are just as dysfunctional as any other family - they bicker, tease, embarrass, and pull pranks on each other. Likewise, they complement each other's strengths in a way we seldom see on broadcasts nowadays. The way they vibe off of each other's energy and mistakes cannot, under any circumstances, be exclusively induced from scripts.
There's something so pleasantly natural about the program that keeps even this flighty wanderer engrossed for an hour each week.
For those of you who watch the show, what are some of the things you enjoy the most from the show?